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“Yes, the Queen my good sis­ter may be as­sured to have a bet­ter neigh­bour of me be­ing her cousin,” said Mary, wid­owed Queen of France, to the English am­bas­sador be­fore her re­turn to Scot­land.

Ri­vals from the off, the two queens had no chance of ever be­ing good neigh­bours, but putting them side by side we can learn a lot about why one fell from power and the other held firm.

Had they not been kin, El­iz­a­beth I might have been the men­tor that the Queen of Scots needed. The so-called Vir­gin Queen had avoided mar­riage for fear of di­lut­ing her own sta­tus, while Mary’s dal­liances made en­e­mies of her nobles, saw her lose the throne of Scot­land, and an­tag­o­nise her cousin. El­iz­a­beth I evaded the deadly para­noia of one Queen Mary – her own sis­ter – but her cousin Mary would go on in­spire that same fear of usurpa­tion, and would lose her head for it. El­iz­a­beth un­der­stood the minds of mon­archs bet­ter than her cul­tured cousin, and could have coached her through these febrile forces. Mary, Queen of Scots was crowned at Stir­ling Cas­tle, as was her fa­ther James V. Chief among Scot­land’s royal res­i­dences, the ceil­ing of the King’s Pres­ence Cham­ber was adorned with a sea of carved oak heads show­ing mon­archs and myth­i­cal fig­ures. Above are Mar­garet Tu­dor, the sis­ter of Henry VIII and daugh­ter of Henry VII, and her son James V. Through them Mary had a dan­ger­ous claim to the throne of Eng­land

Fi­nally, El­iz­a­beth I nav­i­gated the bit­ter sec­tar­ian land­scape to re­store a sense of sta­tus quo, while Mary never es­caped the per­cep­tion that she was a Catholic out­sider, more French hand­maiden than Queen of Scots. Per­haps in re­turn El­iz­a­beth I might have been given cause to ru­mi­nate on the costs of her suc­cess – the con­stant strug­gle against pow­er­ful and ma­nip­u­la­tive men in her court, the loss of her mother and es­trange­ment from her fam­ily that made her sharp and cold, and her twi­light years, fac­ing death with no off­spring to mourn her and to con­tinue her legacy.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing thought ex­er­cise, but as All About

His­tory’s staff writer Jes­sica Leggett ex­plains on page 30, it sim­ply wasn’t to be.

James Hoare Group Edi­tor

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